Middle East

What The Taliban Really Fear

A Resistance Movement Is Growing in Afghanistan—and It Needs International Support

Photo of Ahmad Massoud, Son of Ahmad Shah Massoud
Image by Hamid Mohammadi

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A year has passed since the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul. Despite its troubles, Afghanistan before August 2021 was a free, democratic country; now it is in a state of turmoil and anarchy. It is on the brink of the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times, with its economy in tatters and its people facing acute food insecurity. Human trafficking and drug trafficking are on the rise. The killing of the al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul points to the persisting ties between the Taliban and transnational terrorist groups. Disarray in the country will only fuel further terrorism and violence, but the international community has merely looked on as Afghanistan has unraveled. Regional and global powers seem willing to accept the de facto rule of the Taliban, even though they lack legitimacy and the support of the population.

The world should not consign Afghans to this bleak future. At least one force remains in the country that seeks to beat back the Taliban, fight terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and restore democracy. The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) is the most capable organized and armed opposition in the country. It is led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the veteran leader from the struggle against the Soviets and fierce opponent of the Taliban who was assassinated by al Qaeda in 2001, two days before the 9/11 attacks. As his father resisted the Taliban and foreign terrorists decades ago, so, too, has Massoud in the past year. When Ashraf Ghani, the president of the fallen Afghan republic, and many other officials fled Afghanistan last August, Massoud decided to stay and fight. In his home province of Panjshir, he was able to rally thousands of soldiers from the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) who opted to join the NRF. Key officials from the republican government also came to Panjshir to band together with Massoud in the resistance to the Taliban.

The NRF fought pitched battles against the Taliban until mid-September last year when Massoud commanded his forces to withdraw into the side valleys of Panjshir and Andarab and to adopt a strategy of guerrilla warfare. Since then, the military wing of the organization has been operating in northern Afghanistan while the political wing is based outside Afghanistan…

To read more visit Foreign Affairs.

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